Off-the-radar bars for a taste of adventure

Off-the-radar bars for a taste of adventure

Updated 9 Jan 2023

Hop into the phone booth for a trip to New York with Daniel Valencia, Head Bartender of MO Bar and Please Don’t Tell (PDT) at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.

Inside the MO Bar at the distinguished The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, you will discover an intimate and cosy oasis, concealed in a bar-within-bar setting. This is where Please Don’t Tell – one of the best Hong Kong’s speakeasies situated, accessed only through a retro mock phone booth, a replication of the iconic entrance of the PDT New York.

Despite hidden from plain sight and accommodating no more than 33 people, this out-of-the-ordinary bar is not going to keep its charm quiet. Head Bartender Daniel Valencia, together with Chef Richard Ekkebus and Mixologist Jeff Bell from the PDT New York, curated a beverage menu combining New York signatures and originals designed specifically for Hong Kong, offering a twist of adventure with a dash of mystery.

“My love for bartending has no limits.” said Daniel Valencia. Born in Colombia, where his family operated a countryside restaurant, Daniel has developed an interest in restaurants & bars operations since childhood. Moving to Hong Kong as a teenager, Daniel was fascinated by the lively, upbeat bar atmosphere in Lan Kwai Fong and he soon hit upon the idea to become a bartender.

Keeping a firm grip on his dreams, Daniel began his bartending career in Havana Club – a Cuban Bar from the Eclipse Hospitality Group in D’Aguilar Street. Then he joined the Blacksheep Restaurants Group as Bartender and eventually started to lead the beverage programme of 6 venues for Black Sheep Restaurants as Operations Bar Manager. In 2021, he entered The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, one of the top luxury hotels in Hong Kong.

Living his live like an adventure, Daniel is also taking guests on numerous adventurous journeys with his genius recipes. Bringing localised New York flavours to every glass, Daniel and his bars are definitely gems that are worth digging for.

How did you begin your career as a bartender?

I was 15 years old when I came to Hong Kong in 2010, and I had no specific plans to start a career within the industry yet, but I took every opportunity that was offered during the time. Being a teenager back then, I started to go to Lan Kwai Fong with friends and received more exposure and connections to the bar industry. The fun interaction between bartenders and guests motivates me to experience the industry myself.

What are the signatures at PDT Hong Kong?

PDT New York signature drinks such as Paddington and Mezcal Mule are brought to Hong Kong. Another must-try drink is Benton’s Old Fashioned with bacon fat-washed Bulleit bourbon, Angostura bitters & maple to create a wonderful sweetened and smoky taste.

Specifically curated PDT Hong Kong’s signatures are Please Don’t Tell, Be A Fan, and Wonka’s Tonic, which utilises the New York technique and is infused with fat-wash white chocolate, Widges gin, coffee & lime cordial & tonic water.

What are the awards and recognitions that you have received?

  • Some of the recent awards for MO Bar PDT include: Best Hotel Bars in Hong Kong (#1) — Travel + Leisure Asia’s Best Award 2022; Best New Bar 2019 — T.Dining by Hong Kong Tatler; Hotel Bar of The Year Hong Kong & Macau 2019 — The Bar Awards by RPB Asia; Best Hotel Bar Hong Kong 2018 & 2019 — TimeOut Bar Awards; Best Hotel Bar Hong Kong & Macau 2018 — The Bar Awards by Ketel One Vodka.

How has the industry changed during COVID-19 and how did you manage to survive and thrive?

The industry has vastly changed throughout the past 2.5 years during COVID. No one could imagine and prepare for everything that had happened, and the impacts on the F&B industry were severe, especially in the bar scenes. Numerous bars were forced to shut down due to the lockdowns and tightened social distancing policy, which makes it even harder as Hong Kong is a tourist city and restaurants & bars are often travellers’ hotspot.

As the regulations are constantly changing, it is hard to fully adapt to the new normal and make perfect plans under such unpredictable circumstances. Although it has been challenging, we keep moving forward as a team with passion, dedication and adaptiveness. We believe the unity and love for the industry are much bigger than anything that ties to block our way. By joining hands with like-minded peers, we have made strides in reviving the bar scenes; you may find more industry events and guest shifts of bartenders happening in the city lately!